At 16, Rees got in with the wrong crowd and started drinking and smoking cannabis. By 17, he was without a home. Rees tells us how Church Army Residential Services Cardiff has helped him to make a U-turn in his life and embark on his journey towards adulthood.
I grew up with my mum and stepdad. When I was 16, I started spending time with a group of people that I now realise were a bad influence, but at the time I saw as my friends. I started drinking heavily and smoking a lot of cannabis. I became rude and disrespectful towards everyone – I just wanted to do my own thing.
My ‘friends’ started stealing things from my mum’s house. Eventually my mother asked me to move out – she had my younger stepbrother and stepsister to think about, and our house was no longer safe because of the kind of people I was allowing into the house.
At the age of 17, I moved in with my dad. When my dad’s partner moved back in there was no space left for me and I had to move out.
Since I was homeless, I got in touch with the council, who found me a place in a hostel. I didn’t like living there. It was rough, and lots of the residents were always looking to pick a fight. I told my support worker, and soon after, I was referred to Ty Bronna, Church Army Residential Services Cardiff’s first stage of accommodation for homeless young people. Funnily enough, my father had been helped by Church Army when he had been young and homeless, and now they were going to help me too!
I felt quite nervous when I moved in because of my experiences in the other hostel. Thankfully, this was totally different! There were 12 other young people living there, all between 16 and 21 years old and it was easy to make friends. The staff, too, were very friendly and were always around to offer help or advice.
I lived there for seven months, then moved to Ty Danescourt, the second stage of Church Army’s accommodation. I was a lot more independent at this hostel, but staff members are close by if you need them.
From the first moment I walked in, I loved Ty Danescourt. I was given my own front door key, and it felt like home. I really liked the peaceful atmosphere and had plenty of space to myself as there were only five other young people living there. Most of them were out during the day, either working or at college. It’s part of the agreement you sign that you need to be in training, education or employment within three months of moving in.
After living in Ty Danescourt for two months, I got a job at a fast food chain. At first, it was really hard to get up early in the morning, especially when it was rainy and cold. The staff members were brilliant in helping me to adjust, they would even make me a nice cup of tea to entice me out of bed! They’ve been amazing in lots of other ways too. They organise a lot of fun activities for us, like DVD nights, pamper sessions, outings and cooking workshops. On Sundays, we have dinner all together, and we all pitch in with the cooking.
My support worker, Rachel, has really helped me in learning to budget my money and pay my rent and bills on time. Thanks to her, I’ve also started saving towards buying some furniture for when I move into my own place.
I feel proud of what I’ve achieved over the past year. Looking back, I realise that without Church Army’s help, I could have gone further and further down the wrong path – and might not have known how to backtrack out of it again.
I’m really excited about moving into my own place. I want to keep on track with my family, have more positive friendships in my life, become a manager at the fast food chain where I’m working … Church Army has helped me to become a grown-up, and I’ll never forget them.
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Read more stories from some of the women at our homeless project in London, the Marylebone Project.
You can also read stories of transformation from other areas of our work here.